Political actualities in Aristotle. The opening paragraphs of Book IV of the Politics show a significant enlargement of Aristotle’s conception of political philosophy, Any science or art ought, he says, to cover the whole of a subject, A gymnastic trainer ought indeed to be able to produce a finished athlete, but he ought also to be able to supervise the physical education of those who cannot become athletes or select suitable exercises for those who need a special kind of training. The same should be true of the political scientist.
He needs to know what -would be the best government if there were no impediments to be overcome, in other words, how to construct an ideal state. But he should know also what is best relative to circumstances and what will succeed in any given conditions even though it is neither the best abstractly considered nor the best under the circumstances.
Finally, on the strength of this knowledge he should be able to judge what form of government is best suited to most states and attainable without presuming more virtue and intelligence than men commonly possess. With this knowledge he can suggest the measures that will be most likely to correct the defects of existing governments.
In other words, the complete art of the statesman must take governments as they are and do the best it can with the means it has. It might even divorce itself from moral considerations altogether and tell the tyrant how to succeed in tyranny, as Aristotle actually does later.
No such radical separation of politics from ethics was intended, but nevertheless the new view of the statesman’s art makes it a different subject of investigation from the ethics of individual and personal morality. At the beginning of Book III of the Politics Aristotle had discussed the virtue of a good man and the virtue of a citizen and had treated their non-identity as a problem.
In the closing pages of the Nicomachean Ethics he takes for granted that they are not identical and presents the problem of legislation as a branch of investigation distinct from the study of the noblest form of ethical ideal. The subject, he says, has been too much neglected but is necessary to complete a philosophy of human nature.
Significantly also he refers to his collection of constitutions as a source for studying the causes which preserve or destroy states and which bring good or bad government; it can hardly be doubted that the proposed study is that which ended in the writing of Books IV to VI of the Politics.
When these have been studied we shall perhaps be more likely to see with a comprehensive view, which constitution is best, and how each must be ordered, and what laws and customs it must use, if it is to be at its best.
This discrimination of ethics and politics, which marks the beginning of the two as distinct but connected subjects of investigation, is of a piece with the astounding power of logical organization displayed by his philosophy as a whole. By virtue of this capacity, in which he far surpassed Plato, he was able to outline the main branches of scientific knowledge as they have remained even to modern times.
The Political and Ethical Constitutions:-
The analysis of actual forms of Greek government undertaken in Book IV is attached to the sixfold classification of constitutions in Book III. Perhaps more truly it is connected with the treatment of monarchy in the latter part of that Book. Aristotle now refers to monarchy and aristocracy as belonging to the class of ideal states, though this does not correspond very accurately with the discussion of them in Book III, and he proposes to pass on to a closer examination of oligarchy and democracy.
It is commonly supposed, he says, that there is only one form of each of these but this is a fallacy, a remark which recalls his comment on the difficulty of seeing that there are several kinds of monarchy. What the practical statesman needs to know, in order to work with actual government, is how many kinds of oligarchy and democracy there are and what laws are suitable to each kind of constitution.
This will enable him to tell what form of government is best for most states, what is best for a state that has to exist under some special condition, what is needed to make any given form of government practicable, and what causes make for stability or instability in different kinds of states.
The reopening of the question of classification with respect to oligarchy and democracy requires a re-examination of the general nature of the constitution. The view which had on the whole prevailed in Book III is that the constitution is an arrangement of citizens or a mode of life which more or less dictates the external organization of the state. This is a normal point of view so long as the ethical aspect of the state was uppermost in Aristotle’s mind.
For the determining factor in any state would be the ethical values which the association of Citizens was designed to realize; the moral purposes of the citizens in living together would be the essential thing that they had in common and hence, so to speak, the life of the state.
Aristotle had, however; defined a constitution also as the arrangement of offices oi magistrates, which is closer to a political view of the state In the modern sense. In Book IV the latter definition Is restated and the constitution is distinguished from the law, which is the body of rules to be followed by magistrates in performing the duties of their offices.
Aristotle also adds still a third analysis of states into social classes, or united groups smaller than the state itself, such as families, or the rich and poor, or occupational groups such as farmers, artisans and merchants. The economic structure of the state is not spoken of as a constitution, but its influence is often decisive in determining what form of political constitution (arrangement of offices) is suitable or feasible. Aristotle compares economic classes to an animal’s organs and says that there are as many kinds of states as there are ways of combining the classes necessary to support a social life.
At the outset, therefore, Aristotle has introduced into the discussion of actual states several important distinctions, which to be sure he has not made explicit but which show clearly how far he has progressed in the assessment of real political forces. In the first place, reference has already been made to the discrimination of politics from ethics.
This was involved in the plan of treating the actual apart from the ideal constitution, and is marked by the greater importance given to the definition of the constitution as an arrangement of offices. He now distinguishes also the law from the political structure of the organized government.
Still more important is the discrimination of political structure from the social and economic structure which lies behind it. The modern distinction between the state and society one which no Greek thinker made clearly and adequately, and which perhaps could not be clearly made until the state was conceived as a legal structure, but Aristotle at least reached a very good first approximation to it the Republic
Moreover, he was able to use the distinction in a highly realistic fashion when he shrewdly remarked that a political constitution is one thing and the way the constitution actually works is another. A government democratic in form may govern oligarchical, while an oligarchy may govern democratically.
Thus a democracy with a prevailingly agricultural population may be quite changed by the addition of a large urban trading class, though the political structure of the state the offices and the political rights of its citizens-is quite unchanged.
The use which Aristotle made of this twofold analysis of the stale into political agencies and classes united by similarity of economies interest-would have been easier to follow if he had always distinguished his use of the one from his use of the other, and if he hat discriminated both from the interaction of one upon the other.
In his numeration of the kinds of democracy and oligarchy it is often hard o see what principle of classification he is following; in fact he offers two lists of each without explaining wherein the two differ, though in and he seems to be thinking mainly of the political constitution and in the other of the economic constitution.
Moreover, the classification is complicated by the distinction between lawless and law-abiding governments, though this ought not to apply to oligarchy at all and in any case would have to be regarded as a result derivative from the arrangement of offices or classes.
But though the treatment is not schematic, it is substantially clear and unquestionably it represents a mastery of its subject-the internal working of the Greek city-states-such as has rarely been displayed by any later political scientist over any other form of government. Substantially the thought is as follows. There are certain political regulations-such for instance as qualifications for voting and eligibility to office-which are characteristic of democracy and others which are characteristic of oligarchy.
There are also economic conditions-such for instance as the way in which wealth is distributed or the predominance of one or another economic class which predispose a state toward democracy or oligarchy and determine what kind of political constitution will be most likely to succeed. Both the political and the economic arrangements vary in degree,, some tending to a more extreme and some to a less extreme form of the two types.
The possible number of combinations is large, since states may be formed not only from democratic or oligarchic elements but also from elements of both types, as for instance it would be if the assembly were democratically organized while the judiciary was chosen with some sort of oligarchical qualification. The way a government actually works depends in part on the combination of political factors, in part on the economic factors, and also on the way both sets of factors are combined with each other.
Finally, some of the economic factors tend to produce a lawless state and others a law-abiding state, and the same is true of the political factors. Such a conclusion is hard to state in a formal classification, but it has the merit of recognizing a great mass of political and social complexity.
The Democratic and Oligarchic Principles:-
it will be enough to indicate how in general Aristotle follows out these lines of classification, without giving in detail all the subdivisions of oligarchy and democracy that he mentions. Thus democracies differ in their political constitutions according to their inclusiveness, and this usually follows from the way they use, or fail to use, a property qualification.
There may be no qualification at all, either for voting in the assembly or for holding office, or the qualification may be lowest or higher, or it may apply to some offices but not to others. On the other hand, a democracy may not only impose no qualification but may pay its citizens a fee (as at Athens) for jury-service or even for attending the town-meeting, which puts a premium on attendance by the poor.
Democracies will differ also according to the economic structure of the state. A democracy composed of farmers may impose no qualification and yet the management of affairs may be wholly in the hands of the gentry, since the mass of people have little time and little inclination to trouble themselves with public business.
Aristotle considers this to be the best kind of democracy; the people have considerable power and hold the governing class in check by the possibility that they may use it, but so long as the rulers proceed moderately the people leave them free to do much as they think best. A very different sort of democracy results when there is a large urban population who not only have power but use it by trying to transact public business in the town meeting.
This opens an arena to the demagogues, and such a democracy is nearly certain to become lawless and disorderly. In practice it is hardly different from tyranny. The problem of a democracy is to unite popular power with intelligent administration and the latter is not possible by a large assembly.
The kinds of oligarchy are distinguished upon the same general lines. For oligarchy a property qualification or some condition of eligibility, both for-citizenship and for office, is normal, but the qualification may be higher or lower. The oligarchy may be broadly based in the population or power may be confined to a small faction. Such a faction may form a self-perpetuating corporation which fills public offices from its own ranks without even a show of election, and in extreme cases a few families, or even a single family, may have practically hereditary power.
What kind of oligarchical government is possible will depend in turn upon the distribution of property. If there is a fairly large class of property owners with no great extremes of wealth, the oligarchy is likely to be broadly based, but if there is a small class of the very wealthy, government will be likely to fall into the hands of a clique.
And when this happens it will be hard to prevent the abuses of factional rule. At the extreme, oligarchy, like democracy, becomes practically indistinguishable from tyranny. The problem in an oligarchy is the converse of that in a democracy: it is to keep power in the hands of a comparatively small class without allowing this class to become too oppressive to the masses, for oppression is nearly certain to breed disorder.
In Aristotle’s judgment aggression by the rich is more probable than aggression by the masses, and consequently oligarchy is harder to regulate than democracy. At the same time an oligarchy broadly based in a population where wealth is pretty evenly distributed may be a law-abiding form of government.
This examination of the kinds of democracy and oligarchy is later elaborated by Aristotle in-a more systematic analysis of the political constitution or political organs of government. He distinguishes three branches which are present in some form in every government.
First, there is the deliberative branch, which exercises the ultimate legal power of the state in such acts as the making of war and peace, the concluding of treaties, the auditing of magistrates accounts, and legislation, Second, there are various magistrates or administrative officers, and third, there is the judiciary.
Each of these branches may be organized democratically or oligarchical, or more or less democratically or oligarchical. The deliberative body may be more or less inclusive and may exercise a larger or a smaller number of functions.
The magistrates may be chosen by a larger or smaller electorate, or in more democratic governments by lot; they may be chosen for longer or shorter terms; they may be more or less responsible to the deliberative branch and may have a larger or a smaller measure of power.
In the same way the courts may be popular, chosen by lot from a large panel, and may exercise powers co-ordinate with the deliberative branch itself, as at Athens, or they may be restricted in power or numbers and chosen in a more selective way. Any given constitution may be organized more democratically in one of its branches and more oligarchical in another.
The Best Practicable State:-
The analysis of the political factors in democracy and oligarchy has put Aristotle in a position where he can consider the question which now takes the place of the construction of an ideal state, viz., what form of government is best for most states, leaving aside special circumstances that may be peculiar to a given case and assuming no more virtue or political skill than states can usually muster?
Such a form of government Is in no sense ideal; it is merely the best practicable average which results from avoiding the extremes in democracy and oligarchy that experience has shown to be dangerous. This sort of State Aristotle calls the polity, or constitutional government, a name applied in Book III to moderate democracy; Aristotle would not be averse to adopting the word aristocracy (previously used in its etymological meaning for an ideal state) in those cases where the constitution, leans away from popular government too much to be called a moderate, democracy.
In any ease the distinctive feature of this best practicable state that it is a mixed form of constitution in which elements are judicious combined from oligarchy and democracy. Its social foundation is thy existence of a large middle class composed of those who are neither very rich nor very poor. It is this class which, as Euripides had said years before, saves states.
For they are not poor enough to be de graded or rich enough to be factious. Where such a body of citizen exists they form a group large enough to give the state a popular foundation, disinterested enough to hold the magistrates responsible and select enough to avoid the evils of government by the masses Upon such a social foundation it is possible to build a political structure drawing upon institutions typical of both democracy and oligarchy. There may be a property qualification but only a moderate one or there may be no property qualification with no use of lot in selecting magistrates. Aristotle regarded Sparta as a mixed constitution.
He was probably thinking also of the government attempted at Athens in 41 in reality a paper constitution-which aimed to form a citizen-bod restricted to five thousand able to supply themselves with heavy armor and which in the Constitution of Athens Aristotle said was the best government that Athens had ever had.
Like Plato, Aristotle is obliged by practical considerations to fall back upon property as a surrogate for virtue. Neither thinker believed on principle that property is a sign of goodness but both reached the conclusion that for political purposes it offers the best practicable approximation to it.
The principle of the middle-class state is balance, balance between two factors that are certain to count for something in every political system. These factors grow from the claims to power discussed in Book III but Aristotle now treats them less as claims than as forces. These two he describes as quality and quantity. The first includes political influences such as arise from the prestige of wealth, birth, position, and education; the second is the sheer weight of numbers.
If the first predominates the government becomes an oligarchy; if the second, a democracy. In order to produce stability it is desirable that the constitution should allow for both and balance the One against the other. It is because this is most easily done where there is a large middle class that this kind of state is the most secure and the most law-abiding of practicable constitutions.
In some respects Aristotle sees safety in numbers, because he believes in the collective wisdom of a sober public opinion and thinks that a large body is not easily corrupted. But especially for administrative duties men of position and experience are the best. A state that can combine these two factors has solved the chief problems of stable and orderly government.
Undoubtedly Greek history bears out this diagnosis of the internal difficulties which the city-state had to meet. On the other hand, Aristotle has little to say about an equally pressing difficulty which the course of history in his own lifetime ought to have suggested to him the difficulty of foreign affairs and the fact that the city-state was too small successfully to govern a world in which powers like Macedon and Persia had to be coped with.
In Book V Aristotle discusses at length the causes of revolution and the political measures by which it can be prevented, but the details may be passed over. His political penetration and his mastery of Greek government are apparent on every page. But the theory of the subject is already apparent in the discussion of the middle-class state. Both oligarchy and democracy are in a condition of unstable equilibrium, and as a result each runs the risk of being ruined by being too much itself.
A statesman whose practical problem is to govern a state of either kind has to prevent it from carrying out the logic of its own institutions. The more oligarchical an oligarchy becomes the more it tends to be governed by an oppressive faction, and similarly, the more democratic a democracy becomes, the more it tends to be governed by a mob. Both tend to degenerate into tyranny, which is bad in itself and also unlikely to be successful. The almost cynical freedom with which Aristotle advises the tyrant presages Machiavelli.
The traditional tactics are to degrade and humiliate all who might be dangerous, to keep subjects powerless, and to create divisions and mistrust among them. A better way is to rule as little like a tyrant as possible, to pretend at least to an interest in the public welfare, and at all events to avoid the public exhibition of-a tyrant’s vices.
In the long run no form of government can be permanent unless it has the support of the major political and economical forces in the state-regard being given both to quality and quantity-and for this reason it is usually good policy to gain the loyalty of the middle class.
It is the extreme in any direction that ruins states. In short, if not actually a middle-class government, the state must be as like middle-class government as it can, always of Course allowing for any special circumstances which may be decisive in a given case.
The New Art of the Statesman:-
Aristotle’s conception of a new and more general type of political science, including not only a study of the ethical meaning of the state but also an empirical study of the elements, both political and social, of actual constitutions, their combination, and the consequences which are found to follow from these combinations, represented in no sense an abandonment of the fundamental Ideas which he had derived from Plato.
It did represent, however, an important modification and readjustment of them. The objective is still the same in so far as it looks to an art of statesmanship able to direct political life to morally valuable ends by means rationally chosen.
The state is still to realize its true meaning as a factor in a civilized life and the discovery of this meaning is therefore still of vital importance. The direction of political life along the lines best adapted to give the state its true meaning is a work to be performed by intelligence; it is the subject of a science and an art, and therefore as different for Aristotle as for Plato from the mere sharpness of a designing politician, the bungling of a popular assembly, or the rhetorical cleverness of a demagogue or a sophist.
What Aristotle did was not to abandon the ideal but to work forward to a new conception of the science and of the art based on it. Plato had believed that politics could be made the subject of a free intellectual or speculative construction by grasping once for all the idea of the good, though the writing of the Laws is enough to show that in the end he was forced substantially beyond this conception of the task.
Aristotle’s association with Plato fell in the years when this readjustment of his political thought was taking place, and in any case the native bent of Aristotle’s mind would probably have forced him along a line different from that upon which Plato had started.
The method of free intellectual construction-suitable enough for a philosophy that adopted mathematics as the type of all knowledge-was therefore closed to Aristotle from the start. This is proved by his inability to carry out the project for a sketch of an ideal state.
But it was a slow and difficult task to adapt the ideals of Plato’s philosophy to a different method, and this is what Aristotle had to do. The whole story of that re adaptation is written in Aristotle’s formulation of his own philosophical system, of which the science and art of politics was but a single chapter, though an important one.
The embedding of constitutional rule in the ideals of the state-the recognition of law, consent, and public opinion as intrinsic parts of a good political life was an important first step but one which required Aristotle to go farther. He had to go on to analyze the city-state into its political elements, to study the bearing upon these of underlying social and economic forces. And to studies such as these a speculative method was obviously inappropriate.
The collection of constitutions was Aristotle’s attempt to amass the data needed to deal with these problems, and the more empirical and more realistic theory of Books IV to VI was his solution of them. But a more empirical method carried with it a change in the conception of the art which it was to serve.
An end outside the political process upon which a state could be modeled would no longer suffice. The statesman of Aristotle’s art is, so to speak, seated in the midst of affairs. He cannot model them to his will, but he can take advantage of such possibilities as the posture of events offers.
There are necessary consequences which cannot be avoided; there are the chances brought by untoward circumstances which may wreck even a good plan; but there is also art, the intelligent use of available means to bring affairs to a worthy and desirable end.
For Aristotle, then, political science became empirical, though not exclusively descriptive; and the art included the improvement of political life even though this has to be done on a modest scale. It was natural that this advance in his ideas should turn his attention back to first principles and lead him to reconsider the underlying problems from which both he and Plato had started.
This he did briefly in the, introduction which he wrote for the completed Politics, the first book; of the present text. Much of this book merely enlarged upon the theory of household government, including economics, and recapitulated the distinction between this and political rule. This subject was not very completely worked out, probably because the re-examination of the household brought Aristotle face to face with questions already considered in Book II as part of the criticism of communism.
He never undertook the task of rewriting which would have been needed to fuse the two discussions. In the first part of Book, however, he went back to the fundamental question of nature and convention, since for his theory as for Plato’s it was necessary to show that the state has intrinsic moral value and is not merely an imposition of arbitrary force.
In order to deal with this problem. Aristotle canvasses more systematically the definition of the state, starting substantially from the Same point as Plato at the beginning of the Republic. His procedure follows the theory of definition by genus and differential which is developed in his logical works. The state, he says, is a kind of community.
A community is a union of unlike persons who, because of their differences, are able to satisfy their needs by the exchange of goods and services. This is substantially identical with Plato’s belief that the state depends upon a division of labor, but Aristotle differs from Plato because he distinguishes several species of community of which the state is only one.
The object of this, of course, is to distinguish the rule of a household over wife, children, or slaves from political rule, Plato, in other words, had confused the genus with the species. The problem, therefore, is to determine what kind of community a state is in Book i the discussion is so entirely leveled against Plato that Aristotle seems not quite to have developed his whole thought.
Elsewhere he points out that the exchange of goods by buying and selling, or merely contractual relations, makes a community but not a state, because there need be no common ruler. In Book he stresses Communities, so to speak, at the other extreme, where there is a distinction of ruler and ruled but not a constitutional or political ruler.
This is illustrated by the relation of master and slave, where the latter exists wholly for the master’s good, The state lies then in an inter mediate position, distinguished from contract on one side and from ownership on the other. This method of definition by approximation, the discrimination of what might be called limiting cases, is frequently used by Aristotle in his scientific works.
Unfortunately in the Politics he does not consider as systematically as might have been expected the differences between household relations other than slavery, for example, the relation between the head of a household and his wife, which he believed to be different in kind both from his relation to a slave and from the relations of a political ruler to his subjects.
He does, however, propose a general principle for defining the state in contrast with the household. This is the reference to growth or historical development. He who thus considers things in their first growth and origin, whether a state or any thing else, will obtain the clearest view of them.
Aristotle thereupon appeals to the traditional history of the Greek city, which Plato had already used in the Laws to introduce the construction of the second-best state. Thus history shows that the family is the primitive kind of community, brought into being by such elemental needs as those for shelter, food, and the propagation of the race. So long as men have progressed no farther than to satisfy these needs, they live in detached families under a patriarchal government. A higher stage of development is represented by the village, which is a union of several families, and a still higher by the state, which is a union of villages.
The growth is not, however, merely in size. At a certain point a community arises which is different in kind from the more primitive groups. It becomes what Aristotle calls self-sufficing. This refers in part to its territory and its means of economic support, and also to its political independence, but not primarily to these. What is distinctive about the state is, for Aristotle, that it first produces the conditions necessary to a really civilized life.
It originates, as he says, in the bare needs of life but it continues for the sake of a good life. To this end it is as important that the state should not be too large as that it should not be too small. For Aristotle never contemplates any social unit other than the Greek city-state as fulfilling the needs of a civilized life.
It includes the household as one of its necessary elements-and Plato was in error in desiring to abolish the more primitive unit-but it is a more developed and therefore a more perfect kind of community. This is shown by the fact that the needs which the state satisfies are the more typically human needs.
Even the family, which in its most primitive form depends on physical needs that man shares with all animals, requires capacities definitely beyond those which unite the gregarious animals. For it requires speech and the power to distinguish right from wrong, which are characteristics only of the rational animal. But the state gives the opportunity for a higher development even of these rational powers.
Man is distinctively the political animal, the only being that dwells in cities and subjects himself to law and produces science and art and religion and all the many-sided creations of civilization. These represent the perfection of human development and they are attainable only in civil society.
To live without it a being must be either a beast or a god; that is, either below or above the medium plane on which humanity lives. In their highest form, as Aristotle believes dominated as he is by a belief in the unique human capacity of the Greeks-the arts of civilization are attainable only in the city-state.
Nature as Development:-
The meaning and value of the state arise from the fact that, as Edmund Burke said, it is a partnership in all the sciences and all the arts, and this is Aristotle’s final argument against those who assert that law and morals are matters of convention.
The argument as Aristotle uses it represents a careful redefinition of the term nature, such that it can be adapted to every branch of science and made the general principle of a philosophy. It is a practical rule for the guidance of investigation that the simplest and most primitive comes first in time, while the more complete and perfect comes only later after growth has taken place. The later stage, however, shows more adequately than the earlier what the true nature of a thing is.
This rule Aristotle had found useful on a large scale in his biological studies. A seed, for example, discloses its nature only as it germinates and as the plant grows. The physical conditions, such as soil and heat and moisture, are necessary, but even though they are identical for two different seeds-like an acorn or a mustard seed-the resulting plants are quite different.
Aristotle infers that the effective cause of the difference lies in the seeds; each plant contains its own nature which displays itself as it gradually unfolds and becomes explicitly what the seeds are implicitly, The same kind of explanation applies also to the growth of the community.
In its primitive form, as the family, it shows its intrinsic nature as a division of labor, but in its higher forms, without failing to satisfy the primitive needs, it shows itself able to give scope for the development of higher capacities which would be dormant if the family only existed.
The family, Aristotle says, is prior in time but the state is prior by nature; that is, it is the more completely developed and therefore the more indicative of what the community has implicit in it. For the same reason life in the state shows what human nature intrinsically is, No one could even have guessed that the arts of civilization were possible if life had not progressed beyond the kinds of exchange needed to satisfy the primitive needs.
Aristotle’s use of the word nature with reference to society has, therefore, a double significance. It is true that men are instinctively, sociable because they need each other. The primitive community depends upon impulses embedded in all life, such as sex and the appetite for food.
They are indispensable but they are not distinctive of human life, because they are not very different in man and in the lower animals. Human nature is more characteristically displayed in the development of those powers that belong to men alone. And since the state is the only medium in which these can develop, it is natural in a sense that is in some respects the opposite of instinctive.
Just as it is natural for an acorn to grow into an oak, so it is natural for human nature to expand its highest powers in the state. This does not mean that the development must inevitably take place, for the absence of the needed physical conditions will prevent the growth in both cases.
Aristotle in fact believes that it is only in the very limited case of the city-state that the higher development takes place and he attributes this to the fact that only Greeks of all men possess the faculty for such a growth. Where it does take place it shows what human nature is capable of, just as a well-watered and well-nourished oak shows what a good acorn really has in it.
The state is natural because it contains the possibility of a fully civilized life, but since it requires physical and other conditions for its growth, it presents an arena for the statesman art. The application of understanding and will does not create it but may very well turn it toward a more perfect unfolding of its innate possibilities.
A theory of nature such as this-derived from biological as well as social studies-appears to Aristotle to provide a logical foundation for his more broadly conceived science and art of politics. Nature is at bottom a system of capacities or forces of growth directed by their inherent nature toward characteristic ends.
They require for their unfolding what may be called broadly material conditions, which do not produce the ends at which growth is directed but may aid or hinder growth according as they are favorable or the reverse. The events and changes that go on continually are the processes of appropriation by which the powers of growth take possession of such material conditions as are available. These three factors, called by Aristotle form, matter, and movement, are the fundamental constituents of nature.
They offer scope to the arts because within some limits not easy to discover the plans of the artist can serve as forms toward which the available material can be made to converge. Thus in politics the statesman cannot do anything he chooses, but he can wisely choose those courses which tend at least to a better and more desirable development of social institutions and of human life.
In order to do this he needs to understand both what is possible and what is actual. He must know what potentialities of growth are present in the situation before him and what material conditions will give these ideal forces the means of working themselves out in the best way. His investigations always combine two purposes.
They must be empirical and descriptive, because without the knowledge of the actual he cannot tell what means are at his disposal or how the means will turn out if used. But they must consider also the ideal dimension of the facts, for otherwise the statesman will not know how his means should be used to bring out the best that his material affords.
Aristotle conception of the science and art of politics represents the type of investigation which offered the greatest scope to his own mature intellectual genius. In originality and boldness of speculative construction he was by no means the equal of Plato, and the underlying principles of his philosophy were all derived from his master.
In the power of intellectual organization, especially in the ability to grasp a pattern or a tendency in a vast and complicated mass of details, he was not only superior to Plato but the equal of any thinker in the later history of science.
The use of this capacity, in social studies and in biology, shows Aristotle at the top of his bent, after he had freed himself in some measure from Plato and had struck out for himself a line of thought in accordance with his own originality.
It was his growth in this direction that caused him to turn aside from the borrowed purpose of sketching an ideal state and to carry his investigation first toward Constitutional history and second toward general conclusions about the Structure and functioning of states based upon observation and history, Aristotle was the founder of this method, which has been on the whole the soundest and most fruitful that the study of politics has evolved.